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Healthy Weight Loss and Good Nutrition

An Interview with Dr. Ed Bauman

by The Share Guide

Edward Bauman, M.Ed., Ph.D. has been a ground-breaking leader in the field of whole foods nutrition, holistic health, and community health promotion. He is the Founder and Director of Bauman College for Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts, based in Penngrove, California. His approach is non-judgmental and collaborative, allowing people to make their own choices based on individual needs and preferences.

The Share Guide: Dr. Bauman, there are many different programs now for weight loss, and it gets confusing.  Some say that you should drastically reduce your carb intake, and some say it’s fat that’s the problem and carbs are okay. How do we know what’s true?

Dr. Bauman: Just restricting fats or carbohydrates will not work. People need to clear out the chemicals, add the nutrients, and develop an internal practice that enables them to feel happy and peaceful. There’s a simple equation to use: too many calories, plus too many chemicals, minus nutrients, minus internal peace and balance equals poor metabolism and weight gain. In regards to too many calories, you can have too many calories from protein, or too many calories from fat, or too many calories from soft drinks. You can have it from any source. The addition of artificial colors, fats, preservatives, additives, and industrial waste into the food supply has gotten into people’s tissues and has disrupted metabolism and contributed to enormous fat gain. This can happen even on a limited-calorie diet. Animal products tend to concentrate fat-soluble compounds in the environment, so limiting fat on the one hand would limit the amount of foreign chemicals, but healthy fats are essential for hormonal balance and nerve balance.

The other part of the equation is the nutritional deficiencies that are numerous in a standard American diet. This doesn’t even have to be a bad diet. But if you’re eating take-out food, or food that is not natural, wholesome, organic and seasonal, it’s going to be limited in nutrients.  The recent National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey showed that 97% of people in the United States were deficient in the essential fatty acids. These are found largely in fish, in flax and other seeds like chia seeds or hemp, and in algae. The survey also showed that 60% were deficient in magnesium. Another variable is stress, which is very disruptive to the digestive system, the nervous system, the hormonal system, and the fat-burning system. When people are stressed, they store calories. So even with exercise and diet, and clean living, if people are unable to find a level of peace, their brain and nervous system are constantly in fear, which tends to add weight. So again, it’s very complex why people are overweight.

The Share Guide: Some people, like Barry Sears with his Zone Diet, say that the important point is how you balance carbs, proteins, and fat at each meal. 

Dr. Bauman: People are different, so I think the possibilities are more varied than the approach of the Zone Diet. Looking at nutrient density is helpful, which would lean more towards the Zone system, meaning that within a meal having a strong mixture of fats and proteins relative to carbohydrates, a person would have a higher satiation, which means they’d be satisfied.  People could eat a smaller amount of food and have it last longer without them getting hungry. I think that within the higher protein models, calorie restriction is a vital component, which some people realize, some people don’t. This also explains why there was some success with the higher protein diets such as the Atkins diet. People were saturating themselves with fats and proteins, balancing that out with vegetables, and minimizing the intake of fruits and grains and other carbohydrates. But for that to be successful, they had to work within a caloric structure of 1200–1600 calories. If people ate that same diet but consumed 2000 calories (which is the normal recommendation for an average-size man), they wouldn’t lose weight. One part of the problem is the difference between men and women--the standards don’t necessarily look at women being smaller and having less muscle mass versus men. There also needs to be some consciousness about caloric intake, because a lot of people are somewhat ignorant of how many calories they’re getting from their foods. They’re getting bigger portions of foods, and they’re eating in a stressed out way.

The Share Guide: Some nutritionists say the easiest way to lose weight is to eat several small meals throughout the day, rather than three big ones. But others, such as Jack LaLanne, say that you should never snack between meals. What’s your opinion?

Dr. Bauman: It’s still going to boil down to caloric intake, nutrient intake, and whether or not people are metabolizing well. Certainly the element of exercise and physical activity has got to be part of the weight-loss program. There is no weight loss without physical energy expenditure. But people who eat poorly are not going to lose weight, even with tons of exercise because they’re going to be missing certain nutrients. They’ll plateau, which is what normally happens. For people who drop their calories and push up their exercise, at some point they’ll get a thermogenic effect, and they’ll be pretty excited. Then if their nutrients are limited they’ll plateau, and then they’ll start to put weight back on. They’ll exercise more, they’ll still plateau, then they’ll panic. That’s where nutritional advising is very important, to look for what’s missing.  Is it the fatty acids, or zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, amino acids--or something peculiar to that person on a genetic basis? I don’t try to generalize for every person. There’s no single formula that works for everyone. People are biochemically individual. There’s also psycho-social variables.

The Share Guide: Some weight loss experts say that you should never eat late in the evening, and others say that late-night snacks are fine.

Dr. Bauman: It depends how late people stay up in terms of whether or not it’s optimal for them to have an evening snack, and then it depends on what the snack is. If you have dinner at six, and you go to bed at ten, you’re probably okay. But if you have dinner at six and you go to bed at midnight, that’s a long stretch. So if somebody gets beyond four hours without eating and they need some fuel, then having a snack would make sense…but not ice cream and chocolate chip cookies! A good snack might be yogurt and fruit, or some popcorn with nutritional yeast, or a little toast with almond butter. But again, it would be just enough to stabilize the blood sugar, not a large amount.

The Share Guide: Some say you can eat whatever you want, as long as you exercise rigorously everyday.

Dr. Bauman: Well, there are people who are very oriented towards physical activity. Their main mode of expression is through physical activity, so they’re the ones who will exercise several hours a day, or whose work is physically demanding. But they are not the majority. Extreme exercise is not important for everyone, or even beneficial for everyone. However, no exercise is detrimental to everyone. So what we have to deal with here is exercise resistance. As people get older and have injuries and illnesses, their exercise tolerance goes down, which means they really have difficulty sustaining exercise for more than a short time, such as 10, 15, or 20 minutes. But the benefit of exercise is actually greater for someone with low exercise tolerance. If someone goes for a 10-minute walk who’s really out of shape, they get more benefit than somebody who’s highly in shape who does a 45 minute bike ride. So the general population needs to be coached and nurtured and encouraged to build up exercise tolerance, just like people need to be coached and nurtured to make better food choices. It usually takes six months for people to internalize this and make changes, even when they say “Yes, I’m ready to get well.” A holistic viewpoint looks at things as an entire system across an entire lifetime.  Unfortunately, most people who are writing books are saying, “Better Weight in 30 Days.”  People are not looking at this as lifetime practice; they’re looking at it as a short-term commitment. But that’s not the approach that I present to people. When you talk about this method versus that method, that is still somebody else’s external program that you’re trying to adopt, and at some point it will fail to have relevance for you.

The Share Guide: Some nutritionists say that sugar is the real problem, and you should completely eliminate it, including sweet vegetables like carrots and beets. 

Dr. Bauman: You get people who are into black and white thinking, but that’s not my view. The idea is to look for balance and proportion in nutrient density. It’s not the individual ingredient that’s the issue. Carrots are a good food; yams are a good food, even cane sugar has B vitamins and chromium in it if it’s not refined. But if one is eating out of a box, there’s likely to be too much added sugar or artificial sweetener. People are very seduced by the sweet taste. They expect sweet and salt, and a certain amount of fat for mouth feel, so the whole food industry is pandering to that and it’s a problem. However, you can take things to an extreme. What if you buy a yogurt and it has organic milk and it has organic fruit, but it has cane sugar as the third ingredient? There are people who’d say to get rid of that item because it has sugar.  But the fruit has sugar in it, and even the yogurt has sugar in it. Inevitably, people are going to have exposure to sugar, whether it’s natural sugar or artificial. What I’m saying is don’t eat food that has sugar as the first ingredient, and don’t have your meal be predominant in high glycemic foods. You can eat yams, and carrots, and beets as long as you eat them with a lean protein, and have it with a good fat such as an olive oil or an avocado or almonds.

The Share Guide: Regarding sugar, aren’t stevia and xylitol healthier alternatives?

Dr. Bauman: Well, they’re natural. They will burn up in the system, and they don’t create an adverse effect, but they could be over-consumed as well, because of the sweetness that they bring. I would prefer that people actually use whole foods rather than food extracts, or food concentrates. Stevia is condensed from 100 pounds of stevia leaves into one ounce of stevia liquid or concentrate. You’re not getting the whole plant, and you’re not getting the other phytonutrients. I would prefer that you had a drip of honey or maple syrup in your tea, rather than use stevia. Because of this caloric phobia, and the phobia of sugar, people end up with a packaged alternative to what you could get in a natural way. I’m not saying stevia or xylitol are harmful, but they’re expensive, and they’re energy-demanding--having to make it from leaves to powder to package. You’re adding steps in the ecological process that are somewhat unnecessary. The real problem is not sugar; it’s the over-consumption of sugar, and over-refinement of sugar. 

The Share Guide: Many books say “This is the easiest, most innovative diet plan,” even if it’s the same recycled knowledge. 

Dr. Bauman: Unfortunately, people are turning everything into a commodity. They’re either selling a book, or selling a product, or selling a program, and they’re not really teaching principles of health and nutrition to people. Then people get into this mentality of “I’m cheating now; I’m not following the program.” That creates a certain level of guilt. I don’t approach it that way. I’m teaching people about natural foods and natural lifestyle, with a certain amount of room for people to experiment within healthy choices. 

I have a system called the Four Levels of Eating, which I think is very helpful for people. The first level is Eating for Pleasure, and you’re basically eating to make yourself happy and to minimize pain. The second level is Eating for Energy. At this level you’re just eating to stay full, but it’s more than just pleasure and pain. You have to take care of your blood sugar, but you’re eating on the run. But after a couple of decades of eating just for pleasure and energy, people get sick. They look in the mirror; they don’t look well and they don’t feel well. That puts them into the third level, Eating for Recovery. This level is a diet program. It might be high-fat, low-fat, high-carb, blood type--there’s discrimination involved. There’s do’s and don’ts, but they’re somebody else’s idea. Usually after three months, people plateau on these programs--they get sick of it. People shop around and they follow program A, and program B, and program C, and then after awhile they think “this is crazy,” because they haven’t gained their own sense of understanding. Then they usually just go back to random eating.

The fourth level is what I call Eating for Health. This is where you begin to look at your patterns and at what type of foods and what kind of lifestyle really works for you. You’re making choices between good things, rather than between a good ingredient and a bad ingredient. You’re eating with some discrimination, moderation, and consciousness, and you have purpose in what you’re doing. You realize that you’re taking care of your body for the long haul. So if somebody says, “Want some ice cream and cake?” You say no thanks, but not because you’re on a rigid diet or you’re not eating fats or carbs. It’s because at that moment, you realize it’s not a particularly high choice. Or you might have a little bit and then say that’s enough. The mentality is different. You’re caring for yourself, and you’re looking at where your own limits are and what your own needs are.

Typically at this level you’re working with an advisor. They’ll say these are the nutrients, or the foods, or the herbs that will help you with your issues around thyroid, around insulin, around blood sugar, or around muscle building, etc. But there’s no “cheating.” The locus of control is within yourself. If you overeat, or you make a bad choice, you take that into consideration and you don’t repeat it. This shift in thinking opens you up to a whole wide panorama of healthy choices, rather than this limited “diet.” It’s working towards maturity and self-actualization, rather than looking at dependency and being told what to do by yet another expert. Mastery is what life is about, and nutrition is one of the paths that takes people into understanding themselves and being self-actualized. Then you are able to share and impart knowledge with other people without telling them what to do--because what works for you is not necessarily what’s going to work for them.

The Share Guide: Are there really supplements that are effective in helping people burn fat and lose weight, or do you think they’re all a fraud?

Dr. Bauman: If you exercise and take supplements, the supplements will help you lose weight.  But if you don’t have a good diet and a good lifestyle, then even if you take good supplements you probably won’t lose weight. I’ve worked with hundreds of people who have bought everything there is under the sun, but they really didn’t have the inner life worked out at all. As they begin to shift their food choices, then the chromium, or the CLA or whatever they were taking could help. In essence, the supplements prime the pump. They might stimulate a metabolic effect, or they might help control your appetite. But at a certain point, you’ll basically reach tolerance with those substances; your body will no longer respond to those cues. I’m not against people taking supplements, particularly nutrients that will help them to improve their metabolism, but they have to do it within a holistic approach to their diet and lifestyle if they’re going to expect any kind of return on their investment.

The Share Guide: You are a big proponent of fasting.  How often and for how long do you recommend fasting?

Dr. Bauman: When you say the word fasting, most people think water, but I am not an advocate of water fasting. For 20 years I’ve lead people on supervised juice fasts, which involve organic fruits and vegetable juices, herbal teas, and mineral broths, which are soup mixes without the vegetables, just the broth.  It’s really a modified cleansing, rejuvenating program, rather than a pure fast. I recommend people do a major fast one week a year, during the warm weather time. For an entire week, get off of solid food. Then each season, do it for a 3-5 days period. For someone who wants to continue to carry it forward, do it one day a week.  That’s for someone who’s really highly motivated, or has a particular health need to do so.  But seasonal influences and health issues are very important, so it depends on the individual.

To learn more about Ed Bauman and Bauman College, visit www.baumancollege.org

Related Articles:
Ed Bauman, PhD on combating depression with diet & lifestyle
Ed Bauman, PhD on nutrition myths
Dr. Elson Haas on diet and nutrition
Mollie Katzen on wholesome food and nutrition
Dr. David Kessler on taking control of our food choices 
Jack LaLanne on nutrition and aging well
John MacDougall, MD on diet and nutrition
Barry Sears, PhD on weight loss and the Zone Diet
Andrew Weil, MD on diet and nutrition

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